While many celebrated tearful reunions with elderly loved ones, some children will have to wait longer to see their grandparents.
Rest home provider Ryman Healthcare has introduced strict new visiting rules under Covid-19 alert level 2 saying they remain cautious about social distancing and contact.
The company sent a newsletter out to all of its residents' families earlier this week outlining its new safety measures, including no children under 12 being allowed to visit and temperature checks on entry.
One visitor at a time was preferred, but no more than two people per resident were allowed to pop in. Visiting times were also being restricted to 30 minutes and were only allowed in residents' bedrooms, the newsletter said.
A Ryman Healthcare spokesman said the reason for under 12 restriction was because they were all about social distancing, and this was harder to control with younger kids.
The decision was based on independent advice from Ben Harris, a microbiologist and infection control specialist; Dr Doug Wilson, a researcher and ageing specialist; University of Otago gerontologist Professor Tim Wilkinson as well as our clinical governance committee, which includes our chairman Dr David Kerr, the spokesman said.
It comes after at least five Covid-19 clusters have been linked aged care facilities.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus at five rest homes - two in Christchurch, two in Auckland and one in Hamilton - the Ministry of Health has ordered all district health boards to audit rest home processes and aged residential care facility processes – and as part of that.
Christchurch rest home Rosewood had eleven deaths making it the deadliest cluster in New Zealand. Canterbury DHB is doing its own review into Rosewood but only once it is operating again as an independent facility.
The Ryman Healthcare newsletter - signed by the provider's chief executive Gordon MacLeod and chief operations manager Cheyne Chalmers - said they were absolutely delighted that the Government was moving the country to alert level 2, which would mean many would be able to visit their loved ones again.
He said about 700 half hour visits had been arranged in the first day – "there were a lot of tearful reunions."
But they said they needed to remain vigilant because Covid-19 continued to be a threat to health.
"While it is great to be open for visitors again, these visits won't be like the ones you're used to.
"For the safety of your loved ones, and all the other residents and staff they share their home with, they simply can't be."
Visiting rules are:
• Visiting hours are from 10.45am and 7pm daily, and will be by appointment.
• We would prefer one visitor at a time, but we are allowing a maximum of two visitors seeing a resident. Visits are for 30 minutes.
• No children aged under 12 can visit.
• Visitors must be well.
• Visitors will meet the resident in their room.
• Visitors will be given a temperature check, sign a declaration, and be provided with a face mask which must be worn during the entire visit.
• Social distancing rules will apply, we recommend you maintain at least a 2-metre distance.
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They said hugging and kissing loved ones, especially after a long absence, was the most natural thing in the world.
"We're asking you to please resist that urge, though, for one simple reason: it's what the virus wants us to do.
"Covid-19 thrives on close physical proximity. By denying the virus this chance to spread, you are helping keep the people most vulnerable to infection safe.
"People can be infected with Covid-19 and not have any symptoms, so if we all behave like we do have it, we will stop its spread."